Welcome to the preview of what should be a great match, regardless of the result. Two brilliant sides square off on the newly dubbed Super Sunday, in the monolithic Etihad Stadium. Should be fun, right? Well, yes and no. Arsène’s recent quotes echo my stance on the upcoming clash.
“But on our side, let’s not have any speculation on the weakness or strength of them, let’s focus on us to be at our best. If we are at our best I think we have a great chance to get a good result there.
“What gives the extra edge at the moment is that the Premier League is very tight. It’s the beginning of the title race and that you know that this game can have a big influence on the belief of both teams. Who has the upper hand has a psychological advantage too. So on that front it’s a very exciting game.”
“It’s very early in the season,” added Wenger. “But it’s already very important for me.”
So, we know that “mental strength” will come into play, and that whoever (if either) emerges victorious will be lauded endlessly by the likes of Alan Hansen/Shearer for possessing the vital “champion’s mentality”. Such are the fickle figures of punditry, and in much the same way is day to day life. Whoever the loser is tomorrow, they will be criticised mercilessly for lacking this or that, when really, the better team beat the worse. I genuinely think our current lineup is equally strong as City, and we possess a similar skill set and style, to a degree. The champion of tomorrow’s clash will be who wants it the most, who’s willing to kick off from the first whistle, and take what they desire.
If we want to win convincingly, we need a game plan that everybody can agree on. Here’s mine.
Dominate the Midfield
Easier said than done, and I realize this. By dominate, in no way do I refer to the physical side of the game, because that’s simply not going to happen. With Javi Garcia and Yaya Touré likely to start in tandem, asking Cazorla and Arteta to stand up to men they can’t see over probably isn’t realistic. The key to outplaying City is being technically superb. You can’t tackle what you can’t touch.
Still, we can’t let just one player be the magician. In order to keep the ball against such a defensive team, we need to give Arteta freedom, and leave Diaby behind. Reason being should we lose possession, we have a rather imposing rock to fall back onto in Abou. You get the feeling there is no perfect position for Diaby, and that’s his versatility at fault. I compare him in his utility to Marouane Fellaini, who is comfortable almost anywhere down the spine of a team. It’s players like these who are extremely rare in the sport, and yet we’re unlucky enough to come up against a carbon copy in Yaya Touré. He will be the lynchpin of the team, and will be difficult to stop, being the powerhouse he is. It’s imperative that Yaya is on a short leash, restricted in both attack and defense, as he’s instrumental at both ends of the pitch.
Giving City time on the ball is equivalent to shooting yourself in the foot. Sergio Aguero could be a figure in their starting lineup tomorrow, a menace to our back line. Aguero has a knack for creating space in the middle of the park, dragging midfielders into the fold. Should he start alongside Carlos Tevez, this could be a lethal combination. With Aguero’s ability to hold up play, and Tevez’s tendency to push farther up the pitch in anticipation of a through ball, their contrasting styles could leave us stretched and confused in front of Vito Mannone. It’s something to look out for, and it means our midfielders will have to be sharp and defend as a unit in order to come out on top.
Hit ‘em Hard, Hit ‘em Fast
The Citizens aren’t fond of giving up leads, and the numbers back them up. In 8 out of their last 10 matches, City have been in the lead both at half time and full time. Total domination is the name of their game, from beginning to end. What we have to do is exactly that. Don’t let them move, think, breathe. Make them feel powerless without possession and we will win. The game must over well before it’s time. We must be up at half time by at least 2. That is the expectation, and it’s completely possible. We put 6 past Southampton, and City aren’t an exactly an impenetrable fortress this season, more of a leaky faucet. In 4 out of 6 of their last matches, they’ve conceded two goals or more. Conversely, Arsenal have only conceded 2 goals total in their last 6 matches.
The task is clear: score early, score multiple times. How do we do that? Brute force. Olivier Giroud, if used properly, will be vital to breaking down City’s defense. His exceptional awareness and aerial prowess will come in handy against City’s back line. He can lure players away from the ball, creating space for multiple players to attack. It will be tight moving through the middle of the pitch, with the centrally focused tactics of Roberto Mancini coming into play. We must use the wings as focal points for attack. For this reason, Walcott edges the Ox and Gervinho, who have had more joy down the centre in recent weeks. A self-proclaimed striker he may be, Theo presents danger down the flanks, due to his blistering pace. He’s not the best crosser around, but finding Olivier Giroud in the box isn’t an impossible task. Theo will have to be quick on his feet and in his head to succeed.
3 Key Players
Arsenal: Arteta to pull the strings from behind, Podolski to tear holes up front.
City: Toure for his presence, Aguero for his link up play, Kompany to be the rock in defense.
• 3-1 Arsenal.
• Giroud will continue his barren run.
• Podolski to score with a tap-in.
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Hopefully I’ll be reviewing a footballing masterclass on our part tomorrow.
Stats via WhoScored